Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
Lviv National Opera

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Ivan Nebesnyi
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Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors tells the story in ballet about a short-lived, like spring, earthly and divine love of Ivan and Marichka, a Ukrainian Romeo and Juliet. Their passion blossoms amidst a backdrop of long-standing family rivalry and vengeance, and ultimately triumphs over this hostility. Ivan and Marichka are true children of nature; they listen to the voices of their shadows of forgotten ancestors which stir the souls. 

Based on Mykhailo Kotsyubynskyi's internationally best selling novel, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is a new ballet from Lviv National Opera adapted for the stage by the Opera’s director Vasyl Vovkun, chief choreographer Artem Shoshyn and set to the music composed by Ivan Nebesnyi. This powerful novel has already been adapted to the visual arts, cinema, music and choreography. Lviv’s production explores the cosmos of life, afterlife, man and nature, crafting a poetic tale that crosses the boundary between truth and legend, reality and fantasy.  Performed by the dancers and chorus, this production is a modern and ambitious staging by Lviv National Opera and Ballet, which is streamed on OperaVision to mark International Dance Day. Performed at a time of war, the epilogue has a special poignancy; it features a funeral dance affirming the triumph of spiritual life over death.


Anastasiia Bondar
Arsen Marusenko
Mariana Hres
Oleksandr Omelchenko
Uliana Korchevska
Marichka's mother
Yuliia Ushakova
Marichka's father
Oleksandr Zozulia
Ivan's mother
Anna Yefremeniuk
Ivan's father
Andrii Bilous
Little Marichka
Mariia Melnyk
Karyna Volovyk
Little Ivan
Robert Matveiev
Marko Bilous
Choir soloists:
Halyna Honcharova
Anastasiia Yatsenko
Anastasiia Kornutiak
Iryna Chikel
Yurii Trytsetskyi
Vasyl Vovkun
after Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky
Ivan Nebesnyi
Artem Shoshyn
Vasyl Vovkun
Yurii Bervetskyi
Chorus Master
Vadym Yatsenko
Set and lighting
Arvydas Buinauskas
Nataliia Mishchenko
Yurii Kultchytskyi


Act I

The young Ivan plays his dentsivka (a recorder type of flute) in the woods when he becomes aware of Chuhaister, the guardian spirit of the forest, who plays the floyara (an open-ended notched flute), which scares him to run away, and the guardian disappears. Ivan finds that the sight of the spirit has enabled him to play more accomplished music and he starts an ecstatic dance.

A beautiful day after church, a group of people gathers by the river Cheremosh, when suddenly a fight between two families, the Huteniuks and the Paliichuks, erupts. Ivan escapes the crowd and meets a frightened girl, Marichka. He slaps her as she’s from the rival family, but she gives him a sweet and the two become allies. As the years go by, their friendship grows into a unique romantic love which they both recognise.

Ivan leaves the village for a summer with other young men from the village and lives through a series of pastoral and spiritual experiences out in the wild. The Chuhaister makes another appearance and makes water pour down the mountain. The same water rifts Marichka down the river Cheremosh, where she eventually drowns. When Ivan learns of the accident, he rushes down the river banks only to find her dead body.

Act II

After six years of silence, Ivan returns to the village, married to Palahna. He never stopped loving Marichka, she even appears to him in a vision at his wedding. Palahna makes every effort to win Ivan’s love, she even turns to witchcraft. Burying magic accessories and performing spells in the woods, she understands that Ivan’s heart is taken for good. Under the influence of the Chuhaister, she finds herself attracted to Yura who himself tries to defy a bad weather forecast with magic spells. The two of them become lovers and display their passion openly at the village’s inn. Ivan, now being an obstacle to their luck, sees the community brought up against him, he grows weaker and dies.

At his death, Marichka unites with her beloved. The alpine horns - trembitas - sound to the death of Ivan and his wake begins with silent mourning, growing into a traditional funeral party. The living celebrate with a lively dance, and the ballet ends on a slow note to mourn the deceased.



Sneak peek at Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

New ballet from Lviv - a Ukrainian Romeo and Juliet for International Dance Day.

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The new flagship of Ukrainian ballet

Interview with choreographer Artem Shoshyn

Your impressive artistic career includes many successful projects, where you participated as a ballet dancer and a choreographer. Furthermore, you have worked with Lviv National Opera before. Could you tell us how the idea to create a ballet inspired by Mykhailo Kotsyubynskyi's famous novel came about?

Artem Shoshyn: The idea of staging the ballet Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, based on the novel by Mykhailo Kotsyubynskyi, had been under consideration for almost three years. Myroslav Skoryk, who had also expressed his interest in writing and staging a ballet based on this novel, unfortunately passed away before he could do that. Following his death, Vasyl Vovkun, the initiator of the production of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors at Lviv National Opera, offered me the position of chief choreographer for this production. I could not refuse such an opportunity, so I accepted it immediately.

Firstly, this is an incredible story, a classic of Ukrainian literature, and I love it very much. Secondly, at that time, I already had a successful cooperation experience with Lviv National Opera, so I gladly welcomed the idea of the production of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. A ballet based on this plot should now be presented at Ukrainian musical theatres.

The story of Mykhailo Kotsyubinsky is complex, featuring numerous events, vivid descriptions of nature, and fantastical images. However, it is impossible to include all of these elements in a ballet. Therefore, what ideas or dramatic lines will the new production focus on? Will there be any changes made to the original source to suit the ballet genre?

Artem: When I began working on the production, I had a specific vision for the plot and its representation as a ballet. Initially, I focused on ensuring that the audience could see, feel, and understand the story of the famous novel by M. Kotsyubynskyi.

Additionally, from a directing point of view, we aimed to reproduce all the key elements of the original source in the dance accurately. Our goal was to ensure that the audience could easily understand the performance. Although it is a ballet, it should be easy for the viewer to understand what is presented on stage. Our aim was to present Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors to the public in a manner similar to a film.

Another important task was to reproduce our heroes emotionally, to preserve what was inherent in them in the story as much as possible. So, our characters are very sensual and have a huge palette of feelings. This was a priority for us. The main characters of the ballet form a kind of a square: Ivan and Marichka are bright, loving souls, and Palahna and Chuhaister are their opposites. These two couples symbolise two different types of love – divine and earthly. The entire plot revolves around them.

Can you provide us with additional information regarding the choreography? What has become its basis? Will the performance be a classical ballet or a fusion of classical and modern choreography?

Artem: The ballet incorporates various dance styles, including classical, neoclassical, contemporary, and modern. We aim to present the story in a modern and unique way, providing our own perspective of this classic work while rejecting conventional patterns.

What is your opinion on the work with Lviv National Opera, the production team, and the ballet company?

Artem: While working on Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors as a guest choreographer, I felt like an integral part of Lviv National Opera rather than a mere guest. I feel a deep love for this theatre and its entire team, which includes all the artists and production workshops, without whom the creative preparation process would be impossible. The theatre has one of the best teams in Ukraine, who are capable of bringing to life the most diverse ideas.

What is the value and importance of a new interpretation of Mykhailo Kotsyubynskyi's classic story? Will the ballet gain popularity and love among the audience?

Artem: It took about three years to complete the ballet due to various circumstances. This was my longest production work, but at the same time, the easiest. The choreography was developed two years ago, and the last stage of the production was just about refining it. This is my best work so far, and I even watch videos of previous rehearsals often.

I am ecstatic about the premiere! I am completely satisfied because I can see how much we have accomplished. I am deeply impressed by the ballet dancers of Lviv National Opera who are involved in this production, and the orchestra under the baton of Yurii Bervetskyi. Ivan Nebesnyi's music brilliantly conveys and embodies the entire idea.

The amount of work done is enormous, and I am absolutely sure that the audience will love this premiere. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is going to become the new flagship of Ukrainian ballet, and I sincerely believe in it!